Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bing & Bowie: The Holiday Odd Couple

One of the oddest duets of all time has to be Bing Crosby and David Bowie doing the classic holiday mash-up “The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth.”

Let’s get a little bit of history: Bing used to do a Christmas special with his family every year. Music, skits, etc, mostly music of course, since after all, this is Bing “the Original Crooner” Crosby we’re talking about. Well his last special was shot in London in 1977a few months before his death. It had many guests, as Christmas specials are wont, and one of the guests was David Bowie currently riding high on his “Heroes” album.

No one seems to know who thought bringing Bowie on to Bing’s special was a good idea, but proximity probably helped considering Bowie was living in London at the time. Whoever it was booked Bowie and set him to perform “The Little Drummer Boy” with Bing, but, slight hitch, Bowie didn’t like “Drummer Boy” for his voice and asked for something else.

Frantic, the special’s team quickly wrote a new melody and lyrics to go over “Drummer Boy” and create a new medley. Once “The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth” was complete, Bing and Bowie rehearsed for about an hour and filmed the performance.

Thus was the creation of one of the most beloved, if most anomalous, Christmas duets ever. It still feels weird to think of Bing and Bowie together, but I think everyone can agree they created a beautiful and haunting duet and it is certainly in keeping with the message of the season: Peace on earth, good will toward men.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

AbLib Strikes Back! ...mostly to rant

I am a very impatient person. I hate waiting for lunchtime, I hate waiting in a line, I hate the people who seem to think if there is no posted speed, they should go 20…I am, regrettably, a product of our instant gratification culture.

Which is why I have a love/hate relationship with book series.

I read a lot of fantasy and science fiction which are rife with series. I’m pretty sure authors in these genres have some kind of long-named phobia regarding stories that are confined to a single book. This is not necessarily a bad thing. I enjoy spending many hours with characters and worlds I have fallen in love with. A new book in a series is like checking in with an old friend you don’t get to see very often, which is why I don’t really have a problem with a continual series like Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum or Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse. Those kinds of series, while they have a general overarching storyline of a character’s life or a specific fantasy world, are completely satisfying in a single volume. You know there will be another book eventually, but there’s no rush because all is right with the fictional world when the current book ends.

Not so with a series like Harry Potter or Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson. In these series, while each book has a quest or task that must be completed within each volume, the real story is the overarching task of defeating Voldemort or Kronos, respectively. Which, don’t get me wrong, is great, but the waiting to discover just HOW our plucky heroes will prevail kills me.

Most people will say, “Oh the anticipation is wonderful! I love feeling the suspense and riding the roller coaster! Trying to imagine what will happen is so much fun I almost wish they would NEVER publish the next volume!”

To those people I say, “Bite me.”

I hate horror movies BECAUSE of the “anticipation” and “suspense.” It makes me jumpy and nauseous and a complete emotional wreck. And I HATE roller coasters, I hate that feeling in your stomach when you go down a hill and the bumps and height and the realization that all that is holding me in place is a bar and gravity, neither of which I particularly trust. I don’t want to IMAGINE what is going to happen, because if I come up with something really cool, I’m going to mad when the author doesn’t think of it too and then I will remain disappointed for the rest of my life and end up in a dark basement writing fan fiction which no one will read.

The best time to start a series like Potter or Jackson is when the penultimate book has already been released and there is a date set for the final title. That way, you can read books 1-6 or 1-4 and not have an agonizing time waiting for the end of the story. It’s a win-win.

I speak from experience. I started the Harry Potter series when the first 3 books were already released and I had to wait about 7 years until I got to know the end of the bloody story all of which supposedly happens in 7 years. On the other hand, I got into the Percy Jackson series when the first four were out and I only had to wait about 6 months for the last book to be released, there was much less anguish.

Moral: Do not start a series unless you already can get your hands on the majority of the books.

But to be safe, just wait until they’ve all been published and pray you can finish before the apocalypse.